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Aussie widow loses $140k home deposit to ‘insane’ rule

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An Australian woman had to start her life over after she and her partner were scammed out of $134,000.

Then, in another tragic twist, her longtime partner died of cancer just one month later.

Emma Rees, from Northern New South Wales, Australia, has had the worst year imaginable.

“It’s insane,” Reese told news.com.au. “We would never have thought in millions of years that we would be in this situation.”

Reese, 46, and her late partner, Jeff Sherman, signed the deal for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in New Brighton, near Byron Bay, last October.

They expected a lot of money from Sherman’s $134,000 mining investment in 2016.

Geoff Shearman’s obituary in a local newspaper.

In the meantime, to get them through, they borrowed money from friends and family to pay security deposits.

However, the investment turned out to be a fraud and I had to abandon the transaction as I did not have the funds to complete the transaction.

As a result, the vendor was legally entitled to retain the couple’s home security deposit, and within two weeks they resold the property for an additional $47,000 while making a $94,000 down payment.

The ordeal of fear began last July when the couple learned that their rental property in New Brighton had been sold and it would take them three months to find a new home.

Lees and Shearman struggled to secure another rental as the beach area was experiencing a real estate boom and a large influx of newcomers thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We couldn’t find a place to go. We spent three months looking within a 60-kilometer radius,” recalls Lees.

Shearman was battling cancer for three years and had built a network of friends and doctors there, so the two were reluctant to move out of the Byron area.

Sheaman was hospitalized from August to October while the couple searched for a new rental property.

The New Briton house the couple were planning to buy.
Emma Lees and Geoff Shearman were planning to buy a $1.8 million property in New Brighton, Australia.

Then they got a call from a so-called old friend.

“I thought some kind of miracle had happened,” Reese said.

A few years ago, her partner invested $134,000 in this friend.

Emma Lees and Geoff Shearman scrambled to find a new property in New Brighton, Australia while Shearman was recovering from brain surgery.
Emma Lees and Geoff Shearman scrambled to find a new property in New Brighton, Australia while Shearman was recovering from brain surgery.

With large payments looming, it seemed likely that they would buy their own property in the area rather than rent it out or be evicted from the area.

“We had two weeks left on our lease. We were completely upset. He (my partner) couldn’t walk more than 50 meters.” [164 feet] Because he had just had brain surgery,” Lees added.

With the clock ticking, the couple finally made a hasty financial decision that ruined them – to sign a contract with no financial clause contingent.

“My partner speculated that he was getting money from this investment and signed an unconditional contract,” she said. “So the offer was accepted.”

The $1.8 million house price was also well above the “level” they were willing to spend, but in the face of homelessness and believing more funding would arrive soon, they decided to sign.

As they were signing the deal, a friend of Sherman’s told him that the investment money had been delayed due to a holdup with the tax department, but would arrive soon.

So the couple decided to borrow the agreed-upon bond of $107,116 from friends and family, believing that they would eventually repay the full amount.

“We moved in on October 29th,” says Lees.

That was the same day Sherman left the hospital, with only two days left on his previous lease.

Geoff Shearman passed away on January 12, 2022 from cancer.
Geoff Shearman passed away on January 12, 2022 from cancer.

“It took us a month to sort out the money and it never came,” Reeds continued.

“The guy my partner invested in pretending to be a friend must have actually been a scammer.”

To this day, the money still hasn’t materialized, and it’s been nearly a year.

Reese and Sherman were unaware of this at the time and persuaded the vendor to extend the settlement deadline while they waited for the investment, resulting in a deal to rent the property until it could be purchased.

Lasky and Jeff Shearman, who passed away in 2021.
Lasky and Jeff Shearman, who passed away in 2021.

“When we were unable to raise the remaining funds, a notice was issued that the contract was terminated,” she said.

“I got emails every day notifying me of my eviction.”

The New Brighton home was then purchased by a Melbourne buyer in December for $1.85 million, plus another $50,000.

Luckily, the new owners allowed Reese and Sherman to continue as renters, but $670 a week drained their savings.

But that wasn’t the end of the debacle. They soon learned that they had to confiscate all of their $94,000 deposits and had no legal basis.

On Christmas Eve, Sherman was given 1-4 weeks to live after discovering he had six more tumors on his leg.

By January 12th, he tragically died of cancer.

According to Lees, he died believing his friends could get the investment money.

“Obviously, I’ve thought about it a thousand times in my head. I honestly don’t know, but the blessing I see in all of this is that I had a roof over my head (his last few weeks ),” she added.

Emma Lees and Geoff Shearman assumed they had $134,000 from a friend's investment to purchase a $1.8 million property.
Emma Lees and Geoff Shearman assumed they had $134,000 from a friend’s investment to purchase a $1.9 million property.

As she grieved, Lees realized she would lose $107,116 that she owed to friends and family.

She sent a desperate letter to Bender, explaining her situation and asking him to pay all of Bender’s expenses, including real estate and legal fees, but to have the leftovers returned to her. It was rejected and the vendor was legally entitled to do so.

After six months of arbitration, the vendor agreed to return the $13,389 deposited in July of this year.

Emma Lees and Geoff Shearman's costly mistake was signing a housing contract that wasn't covered by the loan terms.
Emma Lees and Geoff Shearman’s costly mistake was signing a housing contract that wasn’t covered by the loan terms.

In a statement to news.com.au, the vendor defended its actions.

“I will provide Mr. Sherman with all accommodations, including allowing him to live in the property prior to the settlement, and delay the settlement date in the hope that he will receive the proceeds of the mining lease sale he disclosed. We have allowed some extensions,” Bender wrote.

“While I was aware and sympathetic to Mr. Shearman and Mr. Lee’s personal plight, they had already received far less than they were legally entitled to receive under their failed contracts. ”

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